This Feburary, I ordered a Dell XPS-13 Developer Edition. The Developer Edition is a line of Dell laptops that
ships with certified Linux OS. It has been my programming powerhouse for the last eight months.
My first choice for a laptop was not Linux. Windows and macOS are simply more practical. Games and MS Office just works
on Windows. Software support on macOS is generally good (except games), but it beats Windows with its underlying BSD
architecture. There is better hardware support simply because more people use it. However, I ultimately ended up with a
Dell and Linux and it worked out great.
I’ve been trying to program on a Windows laptop for a while and it’s terrible at three things. First, file operations
are slow. Some file management scripts runs faster inside a Linux VM than within Windows directly. Second, while you can
run Linux Subsystem on Windows, you don’t get the graphical shell (Gnome or KDE). Specifially, I don’t get seamless
integration with Emacs and other IDEs. The last problem is that Docker on Windows still need to run within a Linux VM,
which defaults the purpose.
The other choice for a programming laptop is a Mac. It’s fine and many developers use it. My big gripe against Mac is
the aluminum body construction: I simply don’t like it. Metal does not feel comfortable to me. Since I write a lot of
code, it is really important that the laptop feels good to me.
Thus, I ended up with the XPS-13. I like the physical material - a soft rubber material where I rest my plams. While it
is not as good Surface’s Alcantara body, it is much more comfortable than the cold, hard metal block that makes up a
MacBook Pro. And it runs Linux! All the programs I use for development - Emacs, bash, apt, docker, Go, etc., just
works. I’ve replaced the horrible Gnome shell with KDE Plasma, which is as simple as running
apt-get install plasma-dekstop
A really nice thing about Dell XPS-13 is that it comes with
Ubuntu 18 LTS. The
snap utility comes with a number of
tools that are my must-haves:
There are still some small problems with this Linux laptop, but no showstoppers.
- Bluetooth: My bluetooth headphones seem to cut out after awhile and requires restarting the bluetooth device on the
- Battery life: My Surface Laptop lasts noticeable longer for casual use such as web browsing and watching Netflix. It
also lasts longer with the screen closed and the laptop stowed away.
- The display: I chose the 1920x1080 display beacuse it’d add $600 to a $1000 price tag. It also provides (allegedly)
better battery life. It’s, well, not great. But I wouldn’t pay 60% more to get a better screen.
I’m extremely happy with my switch to Linux and I’d recommend more developers to make the swich.